Are galamseyers and Okada operators jumping for joy over Mahama's 2024 candidacy?

John Dramani Mahama Presidential Candidate(NDC) Former President, John Dramani Mahama

Thu, 25 May 2023 Source: Kwaku Badu

Some of us were taken aback listening to former President Mahama lamenting over the jailed galamseyers, and evocatively promising to pardon the wrongdoers who have been rightly convicted and sentenced to prison by a competent court of jurisdiction.

With all due respect, if the former president has a consuming desire to pardon convicted illegal miners so as to restart their lives, he might as well free other criminals such as armed robbers, prostitutes, goat thieves, plantain, mobile phone, cassava thieves, amongst others. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It is quite amazing to see no less a person than a former president of the land, who out of desperation to gain electoral advantage, unblushingly playing down the menace of illegal mining.

If we are happy to send the goat, plantain, mobile phone and cassava thieves to the penitentiary, how much more the illegal miners who are bent on stealing our mineral resources, destroying the water bodies and degrading the environment?

Suffice it to stress that in addition to stealing our natural resources, the illegal miners are gleefully polluting our sources of drinking water with noxious mercury and cyanide.

Given the extreme devastation associated with illegal mining, it is, indeed, a step in the right direction for any forward-thinking and committed leader to halt the illegal miners.

If you may recall, when the recalcitrant illegal miners were all over the place stealing our mineral resources, terrorizing the indigenes and at the same time destroying the lands and water bodies and President Akufo-Addo decided to place a ban on their activities, no less a person than former President Mahama bizarrely came out to oppose the NPP administration (See: Stop chasing illegal miners with soldiers – Mahama to government;citinewsroom.com/ghanaweb.com, 28/04/2018).

Ex-President Mahama was reported to have grouched somewhat plangently: “…it is true that if we don’t do something about it, it will destroy the environment. But we need to apply wisdom. Because we’ve chased young people involved in illegal small-scale mining with soldiers in the past in this country but it didn’t work.”

Former President Mahama was said to have shockingly pontificated: “But if we put a blanket ban and send soldiers after the young people that is not the way to go. As you stop illegal small-scale mining, at the same time you must put in place a livelihood package so that as you are displacing people from illegal mining, they have something to do…. But when there is nothing to do but you are just chasing them, shooting them, it is not the way to go.”

Deductively, Ex-President Mahama was suggesting that the security personnel should cease chasing armed robbers with guns and rather offer them alternative livelihoods. How bizarre?

In fact, there is incontrovertible evidence of some galamseyers quitting their gainful jobs and moving to rural areas to embark on illegal mining. A criminal shall remain so regardless.

It is, however, true that potential economic benefits (employment, tax revenues and development outcomes) can be derived from artisanal and small-scale mining in Ghana.

We cannot also deny the fact that artisanal mining is a significant contributor to the economic and social well-being of many people and households in rural, remote, and poor communities in Ghana.

However, the negatives within illegal mining outweigh the positives. The negative effects include, among other things, environmental degradation, water pollution, the release of mercury and other toxic and hazardous wastes into the free environment, and unforeseen social tensions that could lead to civil unrest.

Given the preponderance of the negatives over the positives in illegal mining, it is absolutely right for any serious, committed and forward-thinking leadership to place a ban on such activities and bring the offenders to book.

I cannot also end my fury in condemnation over the NDC’s 2024 flagbearer, former President Mahama’s bizarre electioneering promise of legalizing the ‘Okada’ business in the unlikely event of winning the forthcoming general elections.

Ironically, however, it was former President Mahama who judiciously brought in the law in 2012 to ban the seemingly perilous Okada business.

Suffice it to stress that despite the numerous protestations by the Okada riders, Mahama spurned their pleas and went ahead and ban the use of motorcycles for commercial use.

If anything at all, I would like to believe that the rationale behind the Okada ban was the ostensibly extreme dangers associated with the business.

Of course, Mahama’s concern back then was in the right direction. The all-important question every well-meaning Ghanaian should be asking now is: why is Mahama going back on his word to legalise the hitherto dangerous Okada business?

Astonishingly, former President Mahama is on record to have said somewhat weirdly and anecdotally that the Okada has created more jobs than Akufo-Addo Innovative Nation Builders Corp (NABCO), so it is about time the illegal business is legalized.

Tell me, dearest reader, if the legalization of the Okada business is not a perfunctory approach to job creation, what is it then?

Some of us, as a matter of conviction, cannot be hoodwinked by manipulating geezers into believing that Okada can solve Ghana’s unemployment problems.

For argument's sake, if former President Mahama is thinking of legalizing Galamsey and Okada as viable means of creating more jobs for the jobless youth, then he might as well consider legalizing prostitution and armed robbery.

It is absolutely true that millions of Ghanaian youth will most likely become jobless as a result of any ban on illegal mining. But, after all, ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander.’

More so, there are thousands, if not millions of women who are regrettably indulging in illegal prostitution.

So is Ex-President Mahama saying there are more women in illegal prostitution than Akufo-Addo’s NABCO and therefore it must be legalized as a means of creating more employment?

With all due respect with no hidden condescension whatsoever, the legalization of Galamsey and Okada is a lazy approach and not a viable means of creating employment for the Ghanaian youth.

In sum, given the preponderance of the negatives over the positives in illegal mining and Okada, it is absolutely right for any serious, committed and forward-thinking leadership to place a ban on such activities.

Columnist: Kwaku Badu